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Relationship between Anthropology and Psychology

Updated on September 7, 2012

Psychology is the science of human behavior. Even anthropology encompasses in its scope the understanding and analysis of human behavior. Both anthropology and psychology are closely related. Psychology studies man's behavior in relation to the environment. Anthropology is also a comparative and analytic study of human behavior and experiences. Both try to understand man in the context of social behavior. In this way psychology arid anthropology are complementary to each other. Whereas on one side psychological knowledge helps an anthropologist in understanding the root causes of human behavior in different cultures, on the other side anthropological studies help the psychologist in calculating the influence of cultural environment of human behavior.

In the modern times, the various anthropological studies have rendered important help in the field of psychology. By studying different primitive cultures, anthropologists have shown how human behavior differs in different cultural environments. Every culture has its special method of social control, which has an important influence on the personality of its members. For example, there has been a great disturbance in the adjustment of adolescence due to restraint on the mutual relations among the individuals of different sexes in civilized societies. It has been found through anthropological studies that such changes are nowhere to be seen in many primitive societies. For example, as in civilized societies, there is no restriction of any kind among the natives of. Samoa Island and therefore an adult becomes self-reliant very early. In India, as compared to Hindu society, it is easier for adolescents of tribal society to become adults due to increased sex education and decreased restrictions. In this way, psychologists learn from such studies the changes that can be seen in human personality and behavior as a result of cultural changes.

The closest relationship between psychology and anthropology is seen between the main branches, social psychology and cultural anthropology. Social psychology studies the individual behavior under social environments. Social anthropology also studies human society, social institutions and groups. Explaining their relationship, Hoebel writes The anthropologist concentrates chiefly on the society of the primitive people and the sociologist concentrates on our contemporary civilization. The social psychologist roams happily between them manipulating his tests and measurements.

In spite of their close relation, the difference between anthropology and psychology should not be neglected. In brief, the chief differences between them are as follows.

  1. Psychology studies individual behavior in social environments whereas anthropology studies not an individual but the whole of the mankind.
  2. Psychology studies individual behavior in social environments whereas social anthropology studies groups of individuals.
  3. Both psychology and anthropology study man but with different viewpoints.
  4. Whereas some methods of observation are commonly employed in both of these sciences, some methods of psychology, like the introspection method, are not used in anthropology.

Both psychology and anthropology, however, can contribute enormously to our understanding of man.


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      6 years ago

      The use of "Man" throughout this entire article is very biased and not inclusive language, it should be changed. A lot of this also seems like opinion and not based on facts. Psychologists also study groups of individuals as a whole, surveys and as an individual, case studies.

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      Edy Luchi 

      6 years ago

      Your use of the term "primitive" culture connotes a false evolutionary and ancestry relationship. That's assuming these "primitive" cultures have been stand-ins for what humans looked in the past, like bugs caught in sap. They would only be primitive if they have been removed from historical and socio-political processes; which no society in the known world has ever been.

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      7 years ago

      wow! this piece is amazing

    • profile image

      Okwubi Daniel 

      8 years ago

      Good work,this is the most informative and simplify article on the relationship between anthropology and psychology.well done.voted high.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      A fascinating hub that gives a clear and informative article about where anthropology and psychology both meet and divert. The lines can sometimes be a bit muddy but this article has clarified a lot of points. Voted up!


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